I have followed the career of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar for years and, God rest his political soul, he will soon be gone from the United States Senate.
And good riddance.
The mostly phony Republican moderate or “centrist,” who was the longest-serving senator in Indiana history, has voted for domestic obstructionism time and again throughout Obama’s presidency (including Tuesday’s vote to preserve low interest rates for millions of college students’ loans), and it is bullshit to claim (as many have) that he was one of the last of reasonable, responsible Republicans. There wasn’t that much reasonableness about him, except for his relatively pragmatic internationalism.
But international issues are only a small part of the job senators are called on to do. Domestically, Lugar’s past behavior will compare favorably to the behavior of the Tea Party nut job, another Dick, Richard Mourdock, who beat Lugar in the GOP primary on Tuesday, should Mourdock beat the Democrat in November.
Lugar didn’t even reside in Indiana, for God’s sake. When he came “home,” he lodged in a hotel in Indianapolis—initially at taxpayer’s expense. Is that the behavior of a moderate centrist?
To prove my point that Lugar’s reasonableness is only party-deep, I present his concession remarks. Keep in mind that this man was allegedly a “statesman” in the Republican Party and that he had a “collegial relationship“—even friendship—with Barack Obama:
Hoosier Republican primary voters have chosen their candidate for the U.S. Senate. I congratulate my opponent on his victory in a hard fought race. I want to see a Republican in the White House, and I want to see my friend Mitch McConnell have a Republican majority in the Senate. I hope my opponent prevails in November to contribute to that Republican majority.
Blah, blah, blah. Contrast those partisan remarks with the remarks of President Obama, who said:
While Dick and I didn’t always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done. My administration’s efforts to secure the world’s most dangerous weapons has been based on the work that Sen. Lugar began, as well as the bipartisan cooperation we forged during my first overseas trip as senator to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
Sen. Lugar comes from a tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership on national security that helped us prevail in the Cold War and sustain American leadership ever since. He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
Now, that is class. And Lugar’s boilerplate partisan comments are, well, typical of a contemporary Republican who—even in defeat—still bends his knee to Tea Party extremists. God knows what good Lugar could have done by calling out the extremists in his party, but we will never know.
There just aren’t too many Republicans that have that kind of fight in them these days.